A Tale of Three Candy Wrappers: Computer Vision Replaces Chocolate Fingerprints


In 1979, the Clark and Holloway brands teamed up with D.C. Comics for this superhero promotion that drove fans to the supermarket candy aisle. (Double click to enlarge ad.)

Technology is always evolving and consumers are now far more sophisticated, but one thing will never change in the supermarket aisle. People LOVE free stuff.

This comic book ad from the late 1970s encapsulates the brand premium craze that’s been going on for decades and is still going strong. Customers save wrappers, boxtops or UPC codes for proof of purchase and mail them to a redemption center for prizes.  Part of the fun is the saving up for and anticipation of getting the reward.

These radio-controlled Batmobiles and Spider-Man cars were only available to fans who collected 12 Holloway or Clark candy wrappers. Holloway was the Chicago company that made Milk Duds famous in the 1920s. (Milk Duds is now owned by Hershey’s.)

This promotion kept driving super-motivated kids to their local convenience stores or supermarkets to get more candy bars. I would imagine that many of those wrapper-stuffed envelopes were smeared with melted chocolate.

Plenty of brands are still asking their customers to mail in proofs of purchase for premium rewards. However, today’s mobile-centric consumer demands instant gratification. Why SHOULD they wait 6-8 weeks if they don’t have to?

Based on the recent experience of two candy brands, image recognition technology is proving itself to be a shopper marketing game changer. 1x-nestle-skinny-cow-contest-photo-gallery-pongrNestle’s Skinny Cow brand used Pongr image recognition in its WoCave Instant Win Game and Grand Prize Sweepstakes. For the female-oriented promotion, shoppers could snap a picture of any Skinny Cow dessert package (including candy, ice cream, cookies and fudge bars) and email it to skinnycow@pongr.com for a chance to instantly win prizes such as mini-freezers or “Ottowoman” furniture.

Pongr’s computer vision and direct response platform processed more than 130,000 customer photos, positively identifying which ones included the Skinny Cow logo. Correct entries were sent links that randomly selected instant prizes and automatically entered them into the Grand Prize drawing for a $10,000 “Woman Cave” rec room. Here’s a look at the instant direct response messaging:


Customers who photographed Skinny Cow candy wrappers or ice cream packages could find out if they won while shopping in the supermarket aisle.

If customers emailed in a picture of anything besides Skinny Cow products, they were sent an encouraging messaging asking them to try again. The most remarkable part of the Skinny Cow “WoCave” Game?  There were no in-store signage or POP displays instructing customers what to do. Consumer activation was 100 percent digital, with the call to action coming from Facebook, Twitter and other social channels.


UNREAL Candy used image recognition technology for its “Unjunk Your January” photo contest to celebrate nationwide distribution in Target Stores.

UNREAL Candy, another brand that markets itself as a healthier snack alternative, also made its candy wrappers the focus of its “Unjunk Your January” Photo Contest. To celebrate its high-profile endcap placement in Target, the startup company asked its Facebook fans to pose with the product at home and in the store for the chance to win a $10,000 shopping spree.

Because Pongr image recognition uses product logos as the basis for direct response, there is never a need for special printing or packaging modifications before launching a campaign. A brand’s logo is already one of its most valuable marketing assets — why NOT focus on that instead of a bland QR barcode for consumer engagement?

Furthermore, when customers get close enough to photograph a product, close enough to touch the product, they are more likely to buy that product. From personal experience in the candy aisle, I can assure you that no study is needed to verify that!

On a pragmatic note, sorting through pictures of used food wrappers result in much cleaner hands.

(Pongr can turn any brand logo or product packaging into direct response advertising. Learn more about our Partner Program for brands and agencies.)

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